An Index to the Website
may be found by clicking here.



New WordPress Blog!

I've set up a new WordPress blog (with the help of my web-wrangler) because it gives me more options than the blog on this website, including the ability to post more photos, the ability to link with social media across the web, and a subscription service that sends a dandy version of the blog directly to your email inbox. Try it out.

Notes from a Western Life at WindbreakHouse.WordPress.com

You can continue to read the blogs here, however a few of the very long blogs under the category of "Writing: Where I've Been" will only appear on the WordPress blog.



An Index of Blog Topics
may be found lower down in this left-hand column so, for example, you can search for all blogs with "Writing Suggestions."

A dated archive of blogs is also available below the index.

Click here to jump to the index, or scroll down to see a selection of photos related to the blog posts.






Blacksmith or Wordsmith

Iron legs from yesteryear.

Smaller iron items inside.

The scrap-iron table.



Dust, Grass, and Writing

Like the native grasses, the roots of writing go deep and reach out in many directions.

Tough prairie grass roots splitting open a rock.

Green life may be found under dry debris.


Fringed Jacket Foofaraw

Turtle carved from bone.

Turtle made of silver.

Warrior Woman pin.

George's grizzly bear claw earring.

Powwow jingle cones made of tin.

Brass bell.

A tiny dream catcher.

Harley Owners' Group pin in honor of Jerry.

Wally McRae's cufflink and tooth.





South Dakota Poet Laureate? Not Right Now, Thanks.


"An older writer, conscious of his or her limited life span, may have specific projects in mind to complete. Thus, requiring that the Poet Laureate travel and teach extensively may exclude older writers regardless of their worthiness to hold the position."



Don't just click "like" about some political story you read.


Pick up the phone or write a letter and make a difference.



Ah! The Bathtub.

A brass hook on a nearby wall to hold my robe or a towel.

A removable wire basket stretches across the tub to hold my soap and sponges.



Windbreak House
Now on Facebook.


If you Like me on this Facebook page you'll get notifications of my newly-posted blogs as well as announcements about my books, writing retreats, and other events to do with Windbreak House.

www.Facebook.com/​WindbreakHouse

No kitten videos, but I post Tuesday Writing Tips, Wednesday Word Posts, and various other writing-related stories, announcements, book reviews, photos and the occasional joke.



Ah, Spring!


Want to know more about this critter?

See the Gallimaufry Page for more about the bird, including more photos, and some odds and ends that don't fit anywhere else on this website.



More Stories and Essays by Linda
may be found on this website.

* Home Page Message archives
Many of these essays have writing advice. All have photos, some have recipes, a few have poems.

* Poetry Page essays
Read suggestions for writing and performing poetry and the stories behind some of Linda's poems.

* Critter Stories
Brief stories and photos of birds and wildlife seen on Linda's ranch may be found on this page.

* Gallimaufry Page
Stories and photos that don't fit anywhere else.



Linda on YouTube

Nancy Curtis, publisher and owner of High Plains Press, recorded a couple of videos of Linda reading her poetry and posted them on YouTube.

To see Linda read "Where the Stories Come From"
click here.

To see Linda read her poem "Make a Hand"
click here

Or go to www.YouTube.com and search for Linda Hasselstrom.

You may also want to visit the High Plains Press facebook page where you will find these two poetry videos and much more about the many great western books-- poetry and non-fiction-- published by High Plains Press.

Thanks, Nancy!

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Notes from a Western Life
Ranging Far and Wide on the High Plains and Beyond
Linda M. Hasselstrom's Blog



Unable to Forward

January 5, 2015

Tags: Letter-Writing, Death of a Friend, Family: Mother

I've just had the sad experience of reading a cheery Christmas card I sent last year to a good friend with whom I've been corresponding for about 15 years. Though our meeting was brief, at a conference where we were both speakers, we bonded instantly and immediately began exchanging holiday letters. We wrote only once a year, but our letters were individual, personal and long-- about our writing, about our gardens and the things we were cooking. We exchanged recipes and recommendations for books to read.

Last year at this time, I was looking forward to receiving her holiday letter. She was a role model for me. In her 80s, she remained vigorous and curious, working on a long book that depended on her Greek translations. She’d given up a summer place to move full-time into her primary home, but she showed no signs of mental decline. Her most recent book had been about death and dying, based on her experience with her mother. It remains on my shelf, still unread.

In my Christmas card, I asked her how her new book was coming along, and conveyed to her the compliments of a friend who was enjoying a previous book she’d written. I asked about an older book of hers I wanted to locate.

Why am I reading this letter again?

Because her card came back to me marked “UTF”: Unable to Forward.”

My heart told me what that meant, but I spent considerable time online finding her address, mapping the location of her house and looking at a photograph of it, overgrown and neglected.

And then I found her obituary-- she had died “after a long illness.” But she had written to me the previous Christmas, filled with good cheer and encouragement. I cried for an hour.

I know this woman had a daughter, though another daughter had died some time before. I know she maintained a hearty correspondence with many people and was beloved by many more who had read her books.

I deeply sympathize with whatever hardships might have accompanied her illness and death. But I can’t help wishing her remaining daughter had turned to my friend's no doubt meticulously maintained address book and to let her friends know she was ill, or that she had died.

And here's the purpose of writing about this: If a loved one in your family has died this year, please make that final effort: write to their friends. Even a postcard would do. Think of the people who, like me, were enjoying this season and anticipating that annual letter. Let them know; if you can’t bear to provide all the details of the death, at least give them the fact that it has occurred. Let that be your final gift to your dead loved one.

When my mother died, I found her address book to be fairly confusing, with scribbled-over addresses going back years. But with help from her companion, I went through it and notified everyone whose address I could decipher. In return, I received letters about friendships that extended through fifty, sixty, seventy years, from people saddened by her loss, but grateful to hear from us, glad to know that, as one woman put it, “the song has ended.”

Please, for the sake of those you loved, tell those that they cared about that they are gone. They’d thank you for it if they could.


Linda M. Hasselstrom
Windbreak House
Hermosa, South Dakota

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Book Review: I Do Not Apologize for the Length of This Letter

March 26, 2013

Tags: Book Review, Writer: Mari Sandoz, Indians, Letter-Writing

. . .
I Do Not Apologize for the Length of This Letter: The Mari Sandoz Letters on Native American Rights, 1940-1965.
Introduced and edited by Kimberli A. Lee


book review by Linda M. Hasselstrom


Mari Sandoz, who wrote extensively about the lives of both whites and Indians on the Plains, grew up during pioneer days in the Sandhills of Nebraska with parents who did not consider writing to be real work. Her father, who as Old Jules was the subject of one of her best-known books, called writers and artists “the maggots of society.”

I wonder if Mari ever thought about that metaphor. Maggots, as that famous plainsman Hugh Glass learned in the work of Fred Manfred, can be healers. After a grizzly bear slashed the old trapper’s back, it was the maggots who scoured away the dead flesh and allowed the injured mountain man to live.

And Mari Sandoz dedicated her writing to the life of the plainsmen and plainswomen she knew as a child in the west. Her best-known books, besides the memoir about her father Jules Sandoz, were Crazy Horse and Cheyenne Autumn, about the Indians she knew as a child and as an historian of the Northern Plains.

Sandoz was obsessive about accuracy, a trait which served her well as a writer. But in addition, her demand for truth in the way people write about her Indian neighbors led her to spend considerable time ferociously fighting battles on their behalf with other historians, with legislators, with government officials, and the public. She considered writing about Indians (the term they prefer to Native Americans) to be a privilege and an honor, not an entitlement.

This book may demonstrate why Sandoz’s work did not get as much attention as her subject matter deserved. She remains one of the most unique writers in American literature and one of the least known and appreciated. Writers must, above all, write. As soon as she finished one book, she was behind schedule on another, working hard all her life to finish a cycle of books aimed at showing Plains residents, both white and Indian, to the rest of the world. A selection of her titles shows her massive scope: The Beaver Men: Spearheads of Empire; The Buffalo Hunters: The Story of the Hide Men; The Cattlemen: From the Rio Grande to the Far Marias; These Were the Sioux; and the posthumous The Battle of the Little Bighorn, banned from the federal monument for years because of the truths it told.

Sandoz’s writing schedule was extremely productive. She considered herself an historian; while she could write lyrically, she never had the leisure to polish her prose to a high gloss. She explained once that she could write either books or letters, but not both. And yet she wrote hundreds of letters (typing them, remember, one by one on a non-electric typewriter, not printing them swiftly on a computer or emailing them) clarifying history, attempting to correct negative stereotypes, and criticizing federal Indian policy. She was ferocious in her knowledge and defense of Indian ways and in attacking the worst destructiveness of her period: the termination program and the relocation program.

During much of her writing life, many white leaders, including Westerners, were working to persuade the federal government to terminate its treaty obligations to tribes, many of whom were then swindled out of their land with its rich natural resources. The relocation program promised Indians new and productive lives in cities but mostly tossed them into poverty without education or preparation. The book’s title, in fact, comes from a phrase she used first in a letter to President Truman and later to the heads of subcommittees on Indian affairs in both houses of Congress.

Besides all this, she wrote to Indian leaders and students, encouraging them in efforts to obtain help during a particularly difficult period in their history. Many of her letters, to readers, to other historians and writers, to critics, contain mini-history lessons several pages long, complete with references to research materials she’d dug out of musty government files.

She also took time to appear on television and radio, always consulting with tribal authorities before being interviewed about Indian culture. She resisted degrading stereotypes everywhere she saw them, noting that they not only demeaned the Indians in the eyes of whites but harmed the self-respect of the Indians themselves. She was, she insisted, giving her efforts back to the Indians in gratitude for the knowledge they had given her. “I owe a great personal debt, philosophically, to the Plains Indians,” she said. (P. 163) She kept the faith; some of the research materials entrusted to her by the old chiefs were destroyed upon her death, to preserve ancient secrets.

And always she made clear that she was speaking only with the respect and assent of the Indian people she consulted. In many instances, she became the only voice on their behalf that could be heard-- because the era’s whites believed the ugly stereotypes they had created.

Born in 1896, Sandoz worked her way through the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and traveled throughout the West for research on her books, though she lived much of her life in New York. She was an important voice for Indians in the civil rights era of the 1960s and worked hard to help Indian writers and artists develop their own voices.

Her voice is still relevant; we are still not free of the stereotypes evident in Chapter Three which surfaced so clearly in the horrid Hollywood movie about Crazy Horse. Efforts to exploit Indians and their remaining resources are still frequent. They still need, as Sandoz said in 1959, “land, education, credit and hope.” (P. 66.) And the exploiters are still making money from ruination in White Clay, NE. (p. 72.)

I was a little frustrated that the book could not provide both sides of the correspondence, for example President Truman’s response to Sandoz. However, usually the letters are self-explanatory and the editor provides a helpful overview at the beginning of each chapter. Editor Lee astutely forced me to admit that Sandoz does a little stereotyping of her own, romanticizing a bit in her attempt to demonstrate the rightful place of Plains Indians in American society and their importance to modern Plains history and culture.

Through her books as well as her letters as shown in this volume and others, Sandoz is still working to heal the damage done to Plains residents, white and Indian alike, by greed, exploitation, poverty, alcohol, evils of civilization. Maggot of society, indeed.

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Writing Letters

April 15, 2012

Tags: Letter-Writing, Email, Family: Father

Does anyone save old family emails?

. . .
Many of the writers I know are quite proud of it.

“Oh, I never write letters anymore,” they say, nodding. “I’m just too busy. I email or text.”

Elsewhere, I’ve already confessed to how I changed my mind about computers when I realized how efficient they were for preparing manuscripts.

And I’ll even admit that when pressed for time-- let me rephrase that-- when PARTICULARLY pressed for time-- I may do a little recycling with a letter. I’ll write a letter saying what I’ve been doing lately and then change the "Dear____" part to fit the recipient. After I print it out, I add the personal notes at the bottom before mailing-- and I usually say, “Excuse the generic letter.”

But I stubbornly continue to write personal letters to many friends. Not only that-- but I hand-write some of them, proving that I am stuck in antediluvial times, sinking in the swamp of prehistory.

Here are some of my reasons.

I have only a few of my father’s letters, usually headed with the date and “At the breakfast table.” My parents lived in what is now my writing retreat house, which doesn’t much resemble the way it looked when they were there. The round oak table at which my father wrote is gone; the curtains he pulled aside to look out the window have been replaced by modern shades. The buffet on which he kept a dictionary so he could look up any word about which he was uncertain is in someone else’s home.

But when I see my father’s handwriting on those letters, I can picture him just as he was on those mornings, the blue eyes, the smile he never wore for photographs because he hated them. My mother is cooking breakfast in her blue bathrobe. He has been out and looked at the weather, recording the night’s low in his journal. He’s planning his day. And he’s writing words of advice and love and encouragement to his daughter.

These letters are particularly precious considering how his life ended, in anger and bitterness and confusion. Without seeing that strong handwriting, I might gradually let the good memories be submerged in the horrible ones. The handwriting provides an anchor; a typed copy of the letter would not be the same. Had he been emailing his thoughts, they’d have long since vanished.

Perhaps nothing I write to any of my friends is as important as those notes my father wrote and it may be that none of my friends keep my handwritten notes. That doesn’t matter either. I like the feeling of holding that pen and seeing the words flow onto the paper, even the recycled scraps I sometimes use for notes, tucking them into envelopes with a few clippings of news stories I can imagine discussing with my friends.

I like seeing in my mind’s eye my friends taking those envelopes out of the mailbox, slitting them open, sitting in their favorite chairs. My handwriting conveys my voice, my thoughts, my image in a way no computerized facsimile ever could.

And when I am hand-writing a letter, my mind slows down. I take time to form the letters, picturing the person to whom I am writing.

Fairly often, I discover as I scribble a thought that had been eluding me while I sat at the computer and pecked and stabbed and jabbed and dug and prodded the keys, a thought that could not be born as the cursor blinked.

So whether the post office is efficient or not and no matter how much it charges me for the privilege, as long as mail service exists, I’ll keep folding those letters, hand-addressing the envelopes and hauling them to town, thinking of the people whose handwriting will be on the envelopes I’ll get back in a few days.

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